Grey Matter

Significant Moment

A moment of significance in an arbitrarily defined numbering system passed me by last night. I forgot to celebrate/commemorate/observe its passage. I'll pay lip service to the instant by recording in this public place what I was doing at the time.

At 01:02:03 on 04/05/06 (Melbourne, Australia), I was reading a book, in bed, possibly being distracted by the interactions of a variable number [0..4] of cats. (Be thankful that I didn't encrypt this message using Arethusa with the date as a seed. Yes, I was reading Cryptonomicon.)


My first attempts at Scifaiku

Robots learn rules from their peers,
Meaning from patterns.

Vested networks of
Degenerate wetware wield
Vast robot legions.

No parity check;
Will your calculator find
Silicon Heaven?

Geeks attempt global
Mutual understanding;
Church leaders protest.

Viral marketing
Campaign used effectively
For selling MemeShield.

Patent English

It's an idiom all of its own,
Undergirt by a cant overblown,
Ambiguity free
If you pay the right fee.
Relation to English: unknown.

As I write up (or attempt to write up) a patent application, I feel the urge to try to hide a limerick or two within the prose of the background or description. I squash the urge. Any phrase I write has a better than even chance of being translated by the patent attorney from English into Haute Patentese. What chance a complete limerick? And what would the distorted partial limericks look like after legal digestion?

Team Fiction

How Kaavya Viswanathan got famous.

I'd say that there's more to this story
Of KV's reuse of priori.
Forty passages found
Makes 'internalized' sound
More like 'ripped off for personal glory.'

Say "I stole it. It's time to come clean,"
or "My book's from a chick-lit machine"?
No, instead, hide behind
The mystery of mind:
"Take pity, I'm only nineteen."

To admit that she deliberately plagiarized would be an extremely bad career move.

To admit that she didn't write the passages herself, and that she wasn't so much an author as a young attractive iconic front for a profitable prose machine, would be better for her but would be bad for the book packaging company (who would then have to admit that their company provides stolen material).

Her least dangerous path is to blame an untouchable source--the mysterious workings of her mind. People can say that they find it completely incredible, but who can prove or disprove it? So, there are identical wordings? An amazing memory could be expected for a talented writer (forgetting of course that she can't remember what belonged to someone else). Maintaining a shred of plausibility is all she needs to do to be able to profit from the extensive exposure.

(Via 3 Quarks Daily)

(More discussion at newsmericks)

Once more around the dance floor?

 Tom Standage puts some perspective on The Culture War (via Boing Boing). A quick sample of the quotes:

1790: "The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth;"

1816: "The indecent foreign dance called the Waltz"... "forced on the respectable classes of society by the evil example of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion."

1909: "but GOD alone knows how many are leading dissolute lives begun at the 'moving pictures.' "

1926: "Does the telephone make men more active or more lazy?"

1954: "All child drug addicts, and all children drawn into the narcotics traffic as messengers, with whom we have had contact, were inveterate comic-book readers"

1956: "The effect of rock and roll on young people, is to turn them into devil worshippers;"

2005: "The disturbing material in Grand Theft Auto and other games like it is stealing the innocence of our children"

Coulter's Only Faithful Fan

Read about Ann Coulter's new book.

O Ann, I am your only faithful fan.
Conservatives may buy your books, but they
Don't see your ploy, your pocket-lining plan

To market pseudoscience to your prey
By tugging on their xenophobic fears.
I love the way you gather what they say,

Then sell it, packaged—all they want to hear.
But Ann, my love, the thing that stokes my lust
Is seeing you, so confident, sincere,

Presenting crap, but getting them to trust
Like babies. Through your ballsy lies I can
Adore the noxious dreck that should disgust.

Naively, they respect you as a man;
O Ann, I am your only faithful fan.

(Crossposted from PhaWRONGula)

Blowing up slabs of meat

On 3 Quarks Daily (quoting The New York Times) I see that Finland is entering a metal band in the Eurovision Song Contest. 

I don't know what to think. Does this make Eurovision better, by cutting a slash into its saccharine blancmange? Does it take away the one redeeming feature of Eurovision, its unapologetic bouncy campness? Or does Lordi fit right in, another I-can't-believe-it's-not-plastic fabrication? 

I expect that it will do little to change the image of Eurovision, but it does help to reposition Finland. For some reason, this quote made me smile: "Lordi represents a rebellion by Finns who are saying, 'Hey we are not all the Nokia-wielding people the government would like you to think we are.' "

The Future

Do you fear the rise of the machines?

For decades writers have been predicting the subjugation of humans to robots, or to a super AI. The created slave becomes the master. We lose our freedom, our enjoyment of life. Would I be stretching the bounds of credibility if I suggested that the robot revolution is already proceeding as predicted? I had to ring up a bank today.

Evil upon evil upon evil. First, take a run-of-the-mill pop-love-twee-gush-song from the '80s. Next, create an emotionless cover of that song with extra dollops of soporific. Then shred it through a band-mangled tweeterless wooferless telephone audio system, and then butcher it into four and a half bar chunks between adverts for bank services, canned messages to acknowledge that you're still on a queue, regular reassurances that your call is important, and messages to suggest that you dial 1 to try a customer self-serve abomination to avoid the further embarrassment of this phone queue. Admit it, loser: if you hang around waiting for a real human to talk to, you're a frightened luddite, unfit to enjoy the sparkling future of automated banking services.

Why did I have to subject myself to such debasement at the "hands" of a machine? I could have hung up at any time. I could have wandered away from the phone and left it off the hook in a symbolic gesture of defiance. But, I needed information. They had something I wanted. The machines have inserted themselves between providers and consumers. They've found that perfect leverage point. Drive your wedge between vendor and customer and you can control the world. The rise has begun.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

For destruction Frost is also great

What if, instead of teacher, farmer and botanist, Robert Lee Frost had been a software geek?

I have been one acquainted with the code.
I have debugged, with sources and without.
I have recursed and watched my stack explode.

I have outsourced through times of talent drought.
I have despaired when projects overrun
On schedules pert with hope and gant of doubt.

I have denied the pigment of the sun
And bested night on caffeine pulse and will.
This exponential journey I've begun

(As kiddies swarm, precoc'd with leeter skill,
Uncultured by the baggage that has slowed
My uptake rate) may seem quixotic. Still,

I come with nerdy aptitude bestowed;
I have been one acquainted with the code.

Software Geek Haiku

Last day before freeze;
Feel the fragility of
Unguided design.

This should have been written a couple of days ago. Now that the software in question is frozen there's time to stop and rant at the unbelievably inept interface design that caused last minute defects.

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